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Jeff Wall at the Art Institute

By Olivia Leigh in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 28, 2007 5:30PM

Although Chicagoist has some photographers on staff, we don't always "get" modern photography. Something about many trendy fine art photographs can seem too "snapshotty" in nature, a bit too sterile, or somewhat void of emotion. As such, we were thrilled to find the current Jeff Wall show everything we hoped for in a photography exhibit: beautiful, inspired, intriguing and unique.

2007_08_gustofwind.jpgAfter selecting his "Outside a Nightclub" as our unequivocal favorite piece at the Museum of Contemporary Art's spring photography exhibition, "MCA Exposed," we couldn't wait to see a full range of his work at the Art Institute's retrospective this summer.

The majority of Wall's work shown at the AIC is composed of his signature large-scale, back-lit cibachrome photographs (a.k.a. giant color transparencies mounted on a equally giant lightbox), a style of presentation that is almost intrinsic to his portraits, still lifes and more conceptual works. The glowing light behind the transparent, colorful images provides an incredibly alluring, almost cinematic quality to the works, while the size (measuring on average 6 feet by 8 feet) seems to encourage a deeper interaction.

Heavily influenced by philosophy and literature, Wall's works draw heavily from these sources, occasionally taking a very literal form as in the case of our favorite piece, "After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Preface, 1999-2001."

If you're looking for an artistic diversion now that the packed days of summer are winding to a close, we'd strongly recommend high-tailing it over to the AIC. Even if art isn't really your "thing," the Jeff Wall exhibit is a gem, one that can be genuinely enjoyed with no need to assume a faux air of artsy pretense.

The Jeff Wall exhibit runs until Sept. 23 at the Art Institute. Admission to the exhibit is free with museum admission ($12 for adults). As a reminder, the AIC offers free admission on Thursdays from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.